One with nature

Huntsville State Park is a great getaway for the day or weekend

Huntsville State Park is an easy weekend getaway. Texas Parks and Wildlife

Houston is a world-class city. We have a burgeoning arts scene, a food culture that surpasses almost every other city in the United States, and neighborhoods that are finally becoming walkable. One thing we don’t have, however, is accessible outdoor activities.

When I moved back to Houston from San Marcos, I never thought about how no longer being a bike ride away from the river would affect me. I can't take a walk that ends with me being completely secluded in a bunch of trees while also somehow still being in a city with a population of 60,000. That’s what I miss most about the Hill Country. Natural beauty. 

I want my daughter to appreciate nature, and the serenity that just getting away from the city can provide. I made it my personal quest to try to get her to every park in Houston. There are, like, 500 parks — and some of them are just green spaces — but we do it. Every weekend, we get on the train and go to Discovery Green, Hermann Park, Emancipation Park. You name it, if it’s in the city we’ve tried to go.

But that’s not enough. Recently been embarking on a new quest. Where can you and the family go within a day's drive of the city? Staying overnight can be a struggle especially with children, so we’ll be focusing on only those places within two to three hours of Houston, though you can turn most of these into a weekend camping trip.

First up: Huntsville State Park.

Huntsville State Park is a great getaway for the day or for an entire weekend. One day this spring, I packed my daughter and a lunch on a whim and we drove up to Huntsville. An hour-and-a-half north of the inner loop, the state park is over 2,000 acres of trails, campsites and lakes.

One of the trails, the Triple C, is 8.5 miles long and takes over four hours to hike. We are novice hikers, and she’s a small child who definitely can’t walk for four hours, so we opted for hiking a group of three trails that all intersect toward the park entrance: the Dogwood, Prairie Branch Loop, and part of the Chinquapin (you can hike this trail by itself for three hours).

We ate lunch at a picnic table at Lake Raven, where you can fish, swim or kayak. For us city folk, the best part of Huntsville is that it is so busy all the time you’re less likely to run into any scary wildlife. The trail map said to watch out for alligators, so we were obviously on guard, but we didn’t see one.

Now, for those of you that are used to hiking and enjoy seeing coyotes, snakes, and alligators, this might actually be a turn off. Another downside of such a busy park is that I just felt like the city had relocated 60 miles north into a wooded area.

We left our house at 11 am, got to Huntsville at about 12:30 pm, ate lunch by the river and hiked until about 3 pm, and were back home before 5 pm. A great day away from the hustle and bustle of the city for the cost of gas and a $5 park entrance fee.  

We’ll be headed back this fall to camp for the weekend.

H-Town Run Tourist: Experiences

Volunteering at the 2019 Speedgolf Championships

Author’s own

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

So, the last couple of articles have been about Speedgolf and Speedgolf USA founder, Scott Dawley. Let me tell you about my experiences with the sport and Scott.

​Golf course is so beautiful in the dewy morning.

Author’s own

It was August of 2015 when we met at his race Links Run. I had so much fun running on the green. It is really the softest surface and I got to take pics and whack some balls at the driving range. I was writing for my own blog called IHopeIComeBackAlive.com and thought this would be great for content. Scott was creating more events strictly for speedgolf. Now, this will make some great content. His next event was the next coming week. He allowed me to tag along with my camera.

That morning, I was to meet Scott at Cypresswood Golf Course at 5AM. I set my alarm for 3AM. It would take 45 minutes to get from my place in Memorial to Spring. I had to remind myself that I owed myself a new experience and to get out of bed.

Cari and Pardon striking a pose!

Author’s own

It was well worth it. There is nothing like a golf course in the morning when the sun just comes up. Fog is in the air. Dew is on the grass. And moss is hanging from the trees. Footprints in the grass. To get my content, I had to follow the speedgolfers to get great pictures in a golf cart. I had the time of my life. I didn't reallize how fast they could go until I felt like I was having a hard time keeping up in a cart. I got my story and we were done by 6:15AM with plenty to do in the day. It was worth getting up and everyone should have this experience.

October of 2019:

So, four years later I still do not know how to play golf. I flirted with it, but chose to do traveling marathons instead. I do not know even how to swing properly, but when I reconnected with Scott, he had another opportunity for me. This time, I wanted to share it with others. Scott needed volunteers for the 2019 Speedgolf Championships coming up. My volunteers showed up on Saturday, September 29 ready to work.

​Pardon learning his golf swing.

Author’s own

We arrived early to make sure we didn't miss anything. We got to tour the golf course, take pictures, and chill in the grill until Scott called for us. We had a great time getting to know each other over a margarita. (Yeah, I said margarita. See how hard it is to volunteer with Houston Tourism Gym).

Soon Scott come over to tell us what our jobs were. We had to choose our speed golfer that we would be working with. We were to follow them to all 18 holes in a golf cart and keep their score. (Don't worry, we were taught how to do this. By the way, the golfers would yell their swings to us before they moved on to the next hole. Still pretty easy volunteering).

​Pardon and his new golf coach Joey Froman

Author’s own

My speed golfer was David Harding from Lake Oswego, Oregon. I got in my cart and drove to the start hole. I had actually met David earlier, but reintroduced myself. For the next hour and 15 minutes, I gave David my undivided attention. I took this job seriously and knew how much it counted. But, I also got some great pictures.

After the race, I went and gathered my volunteers to see what they had gotten themselves into. I found Cari (from Conroe) at the entrance waiting for her next assignment. I found Pardon (from Zimbabwe) at the driving range whacking some balls. He found a benevolent golfer to teach him how to swing. Everyone had a great time on the golf course, as I knew they would.

To learn more about Speedgolf, visit SpeedGolfUSA or listen to Scott Dawley, founder of Speedgolf USA, on his podcast Pace of Change which can be downloaded from iTunes. Contact him directly at 832.524.9994 or by emailing info@speedgolfusa.com.

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